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Written by Rob Schultz (human).

#2,121: Ernest & Celestine

Wild Tales - ★★★★☆
I think for my own taste, I would have either trimmed a few minutes from each of the last 3 (of 6) stories, or dropped the one about an accident altogether - that one didn't seem to be built as strongly on a theme of revenge as the others. On the whole though, this is a lot of fun.

Kingsman: The Secret Service - ★★★½☆
Stories about people going to school or training to learn to do something extraordinary are always fun. I liked that we spent very little time on the ins and outs of how to literally do actions, and more time on lessons about how best to apply those actions. Hopefully that's what we get from the inevitable Jedi Academy type movie when they get around to making one. The second half is inherently less fun because it's crammed full of plot instead of exploring this interesting world. And it's missing the movie's most compelling character.

Obvious Child - ★☆☆☆☆
I didn't enjoy this at all. I've been reading about folks liking this for taking a realistic and honest approach to its subject, but for me it was - in the words of a hundred awful open mic'ers - too real. I know the real-world counterparts of this character, and they're the worst.

Ernest & Celestine - ★★★★★
This was so great. It is at times funny, exciting, intriguing, and always beautiful. All throughout I was thinking of who I could tell to go and watch it. I haven't seen Frozen yet, but I can't even imagine how wonderful it must be if Ernest & Celestine was not the best animated feature of last year. 

Of course I kid. You can't win a popularity contest with a movie nobody's seen. But YOU should see it, because it's great. Available at the time of this writing on Prime Instant.

#2,117: Boyhood

(Spoilers in all of this week's reviews.  More than usual, even.)

The Voice - ★★★½☆
Now sure, this doesn't sound like a good movie, and yes, I went to it because it was free, but it turns out to be pretty fun. Unless you're the purist of optimists, you know pretty much from the get-go that this is going to be a story with an unreliable narrator, and it's a (grisly) treat to see what's really going on around the edges of his perception.

My screening was followed by a Q&A with the writer, who was refreshingly straightforward with his opinions about what was on the screen, and explained away the distracting and obvious day-for-night scene: probably it accomplished something to do with when and why the cops show up, but also, along with some well-placed ADR, it keeps the innocent animals from dying horrible deaths at the end.

The Secret in Their Eyes - ★★★★☆
Foreign films get a filter that takes decades to work its magic on domestic movies - way more films were getting pumped out by the studios in the 40s-70s than they make today, but we typically only see the cream of the crop because it's what survives. Similarly, most people only see the foreign films (if they see any at all) that someone has found to be worthy of preserving and sharing with new audiences.

Anyway, this is a solid drama / mystery / thriller kind of thing that is being remade in English with gender-swapped leads, even as we speak. I just saw a big call for extras to fill up the football stadium for the remake of one of this film's most exciting scenes.

The original is a little long, but I don't know what it has to spare. There's a whole thread in there with the broken typewriter (Re: the romantic relationship of the leads), and how it doesn't type the letter 'A' and how 'A' made the difference between 'Fear' and 'I love you' and I don't know how that's going to work in English at all.

Boyhood - ★★★★★
The more I think of it, the more I liked this. Like other Best Picture nominees this year, it's biographical in nature, and it has a weird gimmick. Luckily in this case, the gimmick serves the story.

I didn't necessarily find Mason's entire story relatable to my own life, and the parts that were the most unfamiliar sometimes made me uncomfortable, but I feel like I could watch this over and over again. Things I really liked: a) the realistic accrual of influences – even the negative experiences help us to build who we are, and b) the way the movie is similar to the basement of The Cabin in the Woods. I'll explain.

There must be at least a dozen things in this movie that, in any other movie, would cause immediate and severe punishment to rain upon the heads of our characters. Oh no! He looked at a picture of a cute animal on a phone while driving! The whole audience tenses up for the crash! No. That's not how things really work. He's been given a gun as a present! He's practicing with it near his beloved family members! Oh no! No. He got a gun, he got a bible, he tried them both out and didn't seem particularly taken with either one. And that's fine. Things are usually fine. I like that a subtle hand was given to that sort of thing.

I was also taken with how moving the audience (myself included) found it when the guy who replaces pipes turned up later with his degree and a bright future. That seemed like the mostly openly manipulative moment of the movie, because everyone finds it so touching, but of course that's not a real guy. But this far in, everyone in my theater was thoroughly invested in their reality.

This is my Best Picture pick, even if it's not going to (and didn't!) win.

#2,114: Mortdecai

A Most Violent Year - ★★½☆☆
It's a struggle, writing (a scene, a sketch, a feature film) about NOT doing something. I felt a little resentful at how much of the movie is in the trailer. There's not that much story to go around here, and the trailer used up most of it. There is, however, a lot of plot. So I guess I'm grateful that we got through it all in just a couple of hours, instead of 13 hours on AMC with a cliffhanger ending and a cancellation notice.

I suspect this may have been a movie centered on someone who is not the main character in the story.

Identity - ★★★☆☆
This was more fun than I remembered. I know when I saw it in the theater I had a theory that the ending was re-written and how, but it didn't stick out to me this time around.

Resolution - ★★★½☆
I understand that I'm probably taking the wrong lesson from this movie, but I think I would have been just as happy without any of the fantastical elements involved. The mysterious plot elements were never as interesting to me as the characters and their set up.

Mortdecai - ★½☆☆☆
Given the track records of just about everyone involved, and the really polished production, I kind of have to assume the books this is based on are terrific. A passion project gone awry.

The trouble is summed up in a line from Gwenyth Paltrow, who tells Mortdecai, "don't be tiresome." The character's primary characteristic, his comic conceit, is that he IS tiresome. So no wonder audiences aren't crazy about it. I hope it works better in print.

(Also to say: it seems like every professional review of the movie I read took a moment for the reviewer to sigh heavily at a character called "Jock Strapp." Wikipedia tells us this is so, but I'm pretty sure his last name is never given in the movie or the credits. I just thought that was odd. Of those reviewers, I mean.)